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2015.09.08 13:45

CEPA: Overcome ‘fear of fracking’ to achieve energy independence

DELFI.lt2015.09.08 13:45

The Washington-DC-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) released a report this week on the potential importance of fracking for energy independence in Eastern Europe — and some of the political misgivings about incorporating it into Europe’s energy landscape.

The Washington-DC-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) released a report this week on the potential importance of fracking for energy independence in Eastern Europe — and some of the political misgivings about incorporating it into Europe’s energy landscape.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have an opportunity to transform Europe’s current energy order. As seen through the American experience, the development of untapped energy resources from shale gas in Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine is possible through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. As a region heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas imports, the creation of greater energy security has long been a major policy goal for the European Union (EU) and its individual Member States.

Yet misinformation about environmental and public health risks from hydraulic fracturing is shaping the European policy debate and decision-making on whether or not fracking will play a major role in the region’s energy diversification strategy. While the governments of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have already imposed bans on fracking, energy companies active in Poland, Romania and Ukraine have confronted public protests against shale exploration activities over the last year. This “fear of fracking” has not only become a significant roadblock toward CEE energy independence, but it has stymied immense opportunities for growth in manufacturing and employment across Europe. The development of domestic shale resources could play a critical role in strengthening CEE’s energy strategy and advancing the EU’s goal of stoking economic competitiveness.

Almost 70 years’ worth of US experience in hydraulic fracturing can attest to its relative safety as a method of hydrocarbon extraction. Many claims about the environmental dangers from fracking cannot be substantiated by scientific fact. To this end, one approach in addressing the fears of policymakers and their constituents is through the establishment of a science-based discussion about fracking.

Over the last decade, studies from the United States have yielded a growing collection of scientific data that demonstrates how new technologies and local regulations have become integral to a significant reduction of environmental and public health risks associated with fracking. What’s more, the US fracking model could be adapted to a CEE context, despite differences in geology and population densities.

As Poland, Romania, and Ukraine embark on their own shale expeditions, the success of fracking in the region would also depend on the synchronization of environmental and industry interests in protecting the environment and public health. In applying US best practices in hydraulic fracturing, the countries of CEE already have a tested benchmark for safety and the tools necessary for strengthening national energy security, economic development and transatlantic ties between the United States and the region.

Read CEPA’s full PDF report about fracking best practices here.